Video games have been a hit with children since their unveiling and for the most part there seems to be two types of parental responses. There are those with a more relaxed, laissez-faire attitude and those who feel the evils of the digital playground are the root of childhood obesity and school shootings. This divide is understandable, considering the number of studies both supporting and dismissing the negative effects of video games.
From an outside perspective a lot of popular video games do look and feel overly violent and cruel. However, the same can be said about the action film RoboCop, yet no one in the media has ever blamed the actions of officer Murphy for a school shooting. This hasn’t stopped some of the louder lobbyist groups from pointing out that video games promote violence and other bad behaviors, although the most recent study out of Paris Descartes University indicates otherwise.
The study, lead by Iviane Kovess-Masfety from Paris Descartes University, has proven many positive effects of video games. According to her research, video games as a part of a healthy child’s development isn't just a pipe dream, but a reality.
Kovess-Masfety's study has recognized that children who play more hours of video games a week were “significantly associated with higher intellectual functioning, increased academic achievement, a lower prevalence of peer relationship problems and a lower prevalence of mental health difficulties.” Another big blow to the stereotypical violent gamer construct was that the study actually outlined that “high video game usage was not associated with an increase of conduct disorder or any externalizing disorder nor was it associated with suicidal thoughts or thoughts of death.”
These findings were made possible by monitoring “3,000 European kids between the ages of 6 and 11 years.” The idea was to gather mental health data from school children of different ages, genders and economic classes in order to fully understand if children experience any negative or positive effects from extended video game play.
What was ultimately presented was that the average European child is actually learning and gaining important skills that can genuinely help them in the real world. The data also showed that there actually isn't a link between violent behavior and violent video games. However the finer details of the study outlined that anything over 5 hours a week was considered a high amount of time spent gaming – so before letting your children skip school to play Doom all day remember they still need to learn Math from an actual educator.
Becky Wellington Horner, a member of the Lambton Public Health Unit and long time parent, can attest that video games can help children. Tasked with monitoring youth trends for public health, she admitted many things have changed over the years but the discovery that video games have a positive effect isn't surprising.
“Nothing learned in any medium is a waste,” says Horner. “Even the smallest things can make a difference to young children,” she mentions, continuing with, “When they overcome even the smallest obstacles, real or digital, it gives them enough confidence to try and tackle bigger things.”
Horner does agree with Kovess-Masfety's findings, stating that, “Anything children learn, video games or otherwise, has an effect. It's just a matter of transferring what's learned in video games to the appropriate place.”
The argument over what is best for children is an inherent and continuous discussion. Yet, the argument that video games are damaging to children may be over sooner then we think. What can't be argued with is the statistical data presented by Kovess-Masfety. Video games can and have been fostering positive growth in children.